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Kane Cornes’ ‘unwatchable’ Darwin swipe slapped down as AFL expansion edges closer

Kane Cornes‘ comments about football in Darwin being ‘unwatchable’ has not sat well with former AFLW star turned pundit Abbey Holmes, who believes the weather is hardly a reason to rule out the Northern Territory as part of the AFL’s expansion. With the introduction of the Tasmania Devils in 2028, the AFL is on the hunt for its 20th team.

And last week Darwin pushed its case for a team in the AFL. There are reports that the Northern Territory has released a business case for an AFL licence as well as a new stadium to be built in Darwin’s CBD over the next seven to 10 years at a reported cost of $700-735 million. It’s a move to attempt to secure the 20th slot in the AFL, in a move that would make the AFL a truly national competition. If approved Darwin’s introduction would likely come after Tasmania join the competition in 2028.

Pictured Kane Cornes

Kane Cornes slammed the type of football played in Darwin amid their bid to become the AFL’s 20th team. Image: Getty

But as Darwin made its case to be the newest AFL franchise, in the same week the Gold Coast Suns thumped North Melbourne 17.18 (120) to 7.10 (52) at Darwin’s TIO Stadium. The sweltering heat saw players’ cardio struggle as they were dripping with sweat in what was a gruelling match despite the wide scoreline.

As a result, Cornes said the AFL simply can’t have a Darwin team as it is ‘unwatchable’. “A loser for me is footy in Darwin,” Cornes said on SEN’s Sportsday earlier this week. “The biggest argument as to why you can’t have a team in Darwin is the style of football that’s played there. It’s unwatchable.

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“It’s the elephant in the room that we’re going to have a team in Darwin and the conditions are unwatchable and unplayable for the players,” Cornes explained in his AFL career he played numerous games in Darwin and said that not only is it tough conditions for players with the sapping heat, the ball also becomes so damp and heavy.

“I think largely it’s due to sweat,” Cornes explained on why the ball feels so heavy. “I was having a chat to Bucks (Nathan Buckley) about it off-air and he said ‘They should play that at 1 o’clock’. He said he doesn’t understand why they play that at night. It is a big issue and I’m not sure you can solve the issue unless you play the games during the day and it’s going to be pretty hot at times doing that.”

But Channel 7 sideline reporter Holmes is all for the introduction of a Darwin-based side and smacked down Cornes’ comments. “I’m all for it, obviously,” Holmes said on LiSTNR’s Footy Talk on Wednesday. “A task force is being put together – we heard that last week – with the likes of Andrew McLeod, Nathan Buckley and Andrew Demetriou as well on that task force.

“How long can we sit with 19 teams? We need a 20th licence, and if this is a genuine nationwide Australian competition then the Northern Territory is it. (Chairman at AFL Northern Territory) Sean Bowden is up there now doing a mountain of work to make sure this happens.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 25: MC Abbey Holmes is seen during the 2023 Brownlow Medal at Crown Palladium on September 25, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Abbey Holmes believes Darwin should be the AFL’s 20th team.

“One thing that really grinded my gears … Kane Cornes, after last week’s game with the Suns and North Melbourne, said, ‘This is a perfect example of why we can’t have a team in the Northern Territory’. Because of the calibre of the game that was put forward. I’m sorry — and this is no disrespect to North Melbourne — but they are last on the ladder.

“So, I’m sorry but don’t put North Melbourne there, who you could throw anywhere around the competition at the moment and they’re nine times out of 10 likely to lose that game. Send Brisbane up there, who are used to the greasy conditions and humidity, and it’s a different game. So, I cannot stand when they say that is a perfect example of why we can’t (have a Northern Territory team). Send a top eight team there … and it’s a completely different product.”

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